Drawing on first-hand experience, Matthew Evsky* shares a recent history of student and labor organizing at and around the City University of New York (CUNY), including the Adjunct Project, Campus Equity Week, the CUNY Time Zine, Occupy CUNY, and the Free University of NYC. He delves into the complex relationships between students, contingent faculty, the broader faculty union, and the confusing processes of university exploitation. The emergence of Occupy CUNY burst into a week of action with a student sit-in that was violently repressed by campus security. Although seeing undergraduate organizing as the driving force behind a revival of campus activism, Occupy CUNY connected radicals with each other and built supportive direct relationships across divisions of workers and students. Emerging from a working group on radical pedagogy, the Free University of NYC has enabled people to transform classrooms into spaces of radicalization.
Summary: From the wilderness of adjuncting to university occupations and the Quebec student uprisings, professor Alison Hearn (U. of Western Ontario) discusses how we can create organizing grounds in the ruins of universities. The classroom presents possibilities for connecting pedagogy with organizing, while grappling with the tensions of context, faculty authority, and student resistance. Rather than falling into either authoritarian or hippy-dippy, de-professionalized modes of teaching, Hearn talks about how an ethically responsible approach can escape the academic capitalist rat race and build relationships across divisions of workers and students.
Sharon Irish | April 2012
I will be 60 years old in November of 2012. I identify as white, female, heterosexual and middle-class, and I try to be cognizant of these social locations. I grew up in a mobile, middle-class family, the youngest of three daughters. My father was a sociology professor; my mother, who was the family anchor in many ways, worked very hard for not much pay at the jobs she was able to get each time we moved for my father’s job–in child care or in clerical work.
In 1985, after seven years of coursework and somewhat ambivalently-conducted research, I earned my Ph.D. in art history from Northwestern University. My ambivalence stemmed from my difficulty balancing a passion for art history with an awareness of the urgency and necessity for social justice. I have to admit it took me about twenty years of part-time, adjunct teaching to come to terms with my love of art history and how teaching in that area might support social justice work. A national conference of the Women’s Caucus for Art that I attended in 1990 was my first “aha” experience in understanding that feminism and visual culture offered myriad and powerful ways to intervene in US socio-political structures.
I offer two stories out of my teaching experience, since I think some specific examples might be the most useful to others.